JIM McIntyre, Ross County’s new manager, has made it clear from day one that he can live with his embattled Ross County squad making honest mistakes. In football, as in life, it is how the culprits react that counts.
Gardyne 27; Maatsen 90
And in Dingwall yesterday, victory – and points of any kind craved for nearly two months now in these parts – could be said to be the embodiment of that McIntyre mantra and ideal. The former Queen of the South and Dunfermline manager saw the ethos he has hammered into the players before and after four matches now pay off as Dutchman Darren Maatsen struck late to grab the hosts’ long-awaited first win of the season.
It was a precious three points that should have been wrapped up long before Dark Blues’ substitute David Clarkson sprang from the bench to net with his first touch on his Dundee debut.
County, before then, battered and dominated Dundee, creating chance after chance but only taking one – a sliding Michael Gardyne finish in the first half. Clarkson’s reply gave the home crowd a familiar sinking feeling, only for forgotten Dutchman Maatsen to thrash the stoppage time winner and draw County level with St Mirren in joint bottom spot.
McIntyre, with evident relief, said: “Credit to the boys. I thought they gave absolutely everything. We should have been comfortably ahead in the first half.
“That’s the big thing we’ve been trying to work on, showing a reaction to a setback – whether it’s a bad pass or a goal against you. That’s a mindset thing. You have to have that positivity and make sure you keep going. We’ve been banging the drum on that, if you like – and I’m absolutely delighted with their reactions.”
The hosts sprang a surprise by naming as a starter Lewis Toshney, the former Celtic youth previously on loan with Dundee and Kilmarnock. Toshney, a free agent and training with Hibernian since his summer release, helped ease an acute shortage of bodies for the Staggies in defensive areas.
Dundee, though, were similarly threadbare at the rear, though County coped by far the better of the two. A lively spate of home attacks set the tone and had Dundee locked on the back foot, the best after ten minutes seeing on-loan Cardiff City midfielder Filip Kiss go agonisingly close with a low-cut attempt. Constant waves of attack followed. On one occasion, a Gardyne and Kiss one-two led to a slipped pass to Yoann Arquin, only for a desperate sliding challenge from Paul McGinn to kill the threat.
The home pressure finally told in the 27th minute. Arquin’s perfectly-weighted header released Kiss on the left and Gardyne slid in at the back post to turn the low-powered cross into the net.
Dundee barely mustered anything of note, but the killer second goal eluded the hosts.
The fragility of their single goal lead was exposed, rather cruelly, after 69 minutes when substitute David Clarkson swept on to Martin Boyle’s low cross from close in. It was ex-Motherwell and Bristol Rovers striker Clarkson’s first goal for his new club with his first touch, but disappointment was to follow.
They say fortune favours the brave. Home boss McIntyre threw on two strikers – and it paid off handsomely. Joe Cardle’s ball from the left was controlled and sent across the Dundee box to where Maatsen was waiting to thrash in the winner.
Dundee manager Paul Hartley admitted: “To lose the goal in the last minute is a real blow. But we just didn’t play well. From the standards we set on Wednesday night in the derby defeat, we were well below that.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jackson Irvine (Ross County) Immense in mopping up every ball thrown in at the County rearguard.
TALKING POINT: Should have scored more, but highly-promising signs for the hosts.
Referee: C Charleston. Attendance: 3,188